Between the self and the environment

Flora Maia @ Posi+Tive Magazine/

Jessica Hendry Nelson recounts a trip filled with snow and memories @ Fringe.Nick and I leave at night, in the cold, with a thermos of over-steeped tea dripping onto the porch. We leave in our woolen hats, me in my mittens and downy winter coat, he in his flannel shirt and the tattered blue jeans that fall just a bit too short, ankles exposed. He calls his flannel a jacket because he grew up in Maine where blood runs thick, and sweat is saltier and does not freeze. We walk cautiously and hold hands, feeling in the dark for cracks in the wooden porch and the heavy, cumbrous ice slicks that settle over the steps. We are leaving like thieves in the night, vulpine and furtive, through a cloud of hot breath and steamy chamomile. We just had sex on the living room floor, and for once I didn’t cry as I came, didn’t glimpse that small death just over the precipice.I am going away, again, I am excited, and he is going back, but we are going, and this is what matters. I like going, leaving, moving. Only yesterday, I returned from abroad, returned to the empty apartment and abandoned college town. The roommates were still at parents’ places, in slippers, feasting on holiday leftovers, on fatty ham sandwiches and twice-baked potatoes. Nick picked me up at the airport in Manchester, and we drove the two hours back to Durham in near silence. We were groggy and disoriented from the sudden evaporation of distance, of the two months spent apart, unlearning the body. But it was not an uncomfortable silence, and I watched cows mill around the mud-slicked barns outside the window and he occasionally played with my hair. I stuck my finger in his ear and twice shoved a hand down his pants.At the bottom of the steps, I hear the shuffling of the caged raccoon. He is tucked beneath the porch and looks out at us with raging yellow eyes, neon blinkers from deep in a black hole. His warm body heaves steadily inside the metal cage. A shackled creature, those terrible eyes like portals to some ghostly landscape where we might all quietly go mad, where I could placidly shed my clothes and roll in shit and chew on the cheeks of more